By Kebba Jeffang
The National Council for Civic Education, NCCE, held a dialogue with the residents of Kanilai and Kanfenda in the Foni Kansala district, with a view to put to rest an ongoing impasse that has characterized the post December election in Southern Gambia, West Coast region. This is an ongoing meeting that will be hosted by 30 communities in Foni and this particular one, was held on Saturday, June 17, 2017.
Yususpha Bojang, the programme officer of NCCE said his institution is concerned about the situation in Foni which according to him, should be solved through dialogue. He said this is why they embarked on a national dialogue for peace and reconciliation to be hosted by many communities in Foni.
“Our office is mandated to educate citizens on the Constitution and other laws of the country. We meet and sensitize the people across the country base on what is happening at a particular time. Before the 2016 Presidential election we went round the country to sensitise the people on the importance of political participation and voting. Today we are here because not everything is going as normal. There is conflict in this region so we embark on this campaign in order to resolve this matter amicably,” said Bojang.
Musa Amul Nyassy, the National Assembly member for Foni Kansala said Foni is the only region where the ruling governments of the past, have always been winning elections. He said the people of Foni have always been rallying behind the ruling government with the belief that God ordains leaders. He said this is the mentality of Foni people. He said when ex-President Yahya Jammeh took the country in 1994, the entire Foni including Kanilai were against him because elders said it was unconstitutional. He said it took him 7 months before coming to Foni because he had to do a lot of homework.
“As a result of him taking over the country, did not lead to northern Central River Region, Barajally where the former President hails from, to go under any harassment, threat or intimidation. They were allowed to live in peace and harmony as Gambians. The entire length and breadth of CRR lived in peace and harmony as Gambians,” said MP Nyassi.
He said from the trend of the December 1st Presidential election, Foni is experiencing daily threats, harassment and intimidation. He said Foni has started recognizing themselves as a region that the government does not appreciate, as a region that the government is not willing to work with and as a region that the government is marginalizing.
Nyassi stressed that the government is downplaying the incidents and scenarios that are happening on the ground by stating that previous confrontations were accidentally discharged with the use of rubber bullets. He said it was an irresponsible statement to say that the demonstrators carried locally made weapons, adding that there are clear evidences available with material witnesses. He said there is no material witness to show that rebels were in the midst of protesters as claimed by the Interior Minister in his statement on tv.
“There is a curfew. Nobody can deny or argue that there is no curfew in Kanilai and there was a curfew up to last night. Because, if people are threaten to stay out at night for their own safety in their own country where they are at liberty to move about freely, there is curfew. That is why I told them that the solution to this problem is that those who are still in custody must be unconditionally released with immediate effect. Those who are arraigned before the court, all the charges must be dropped if you are talking of peace and those at large must be allowed to come back and stay with their families in peace,” said Hon. Nyassi.
He said if the communities were informed about the coming of security forces in a respectable manner, they would have been appreciated and will be cautioned by the people on where to be vigilant. But that this was not done.
“The bottom line is the people of Kanilai and Foni feel insecure in the hands of the government. We feel insecure because of the threat that is happening in our communities,” he concluded.
Other speakers at the event decried that their sons are still hiding in the bush and could be radicalized by the rebels on the border. They also expressed concerned that the land mines near the border are worrisome as their sons could step on it at any time. Government’s assurance that they will not be arrested when they come back according to the relatives will see their sons, husbands and uncles return home.